Tag Archives: blogging

Interview with Tamara Kelly from Moogly

I can’t believe the last day of March is already here! I had so much fun celebrating National Crochet Month, and I’m happy to end the festivities with an interview with crochet designer and blogger, Tamara Kelly.

You may know Tamara from her blog, Moogly, or from crocheting one of the more than 130 designs she has published since 2008. Besides her blog, you can also find her online on Ravelry (as tamarairene or on her designer page), on Facebook, on Pinterest, and on Twitter as @mooglyblog.

All photos are used with permission and are copyright Tamara Kelly unless otherwise noted.

Tamara Bio Photo 2013

Tamara Kelly. Photo (c) RSH Photography.

 

Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first learn to crochet?

Tamara: I tried to teach myself in my early twenties from a pamphlet I’d picked up at a craft store – what a disaster! And it didn’t help that I’d decided on a super fuzzy chunky boucle and a Tunisian hook (not that I knew the difference). I set it aside, thinking crochet wasn’t for me, until a few years later. At that point I’d gained a baby, as well as a sister-in-law who’d been crocheting for years. She showed me how to chain and single crochet, and in those 5 minutes I was “hooked!” I taught myself the rest from a stitch dictionary, and crochet quickly became my favorite craft!

 

Rainbow in the Clouds Pillow

Rainbow in the Clouds Pillow.

 

UC: What inspired you to start designing?

Tamara: I made many projects from other people’s patterns, but I often found I was making my own changes and improvements. When I started doing commission crochet work, other crocheters asked me to share my patterns – and I found I liked the design side better! With designing, I get to crochet what I want, when I want it, and never have to make the same thing twice if I don’t want to.

 

Riley Cross Body Bag

Riley Cross Body Bag.

 

UC: You self-publish all of your work. What do you see as the advantages and challenges of self-publishing?

Tamara: The advantage is definitely control – I love being my own boss! All my deadlines are ones I set, and if I need to take a week off, or scrap an idea completely, or change directions, there’s no one telling me no. The challenge is not having a team – people to bounce ideas off of, people who are media and promotion experts. Luckily, I’ve been able to join a community of other crochet bloggers, and we support each other and help each other out.

 

Moroccan Midnight Cowl

Moroccan Midnight Cowl.  (Tamara also designed a matching pair of fingerless mitts and slouch hat.)

 

UC: You’ve undergone a few transformations online – from a mommy blogger, to a maker, to a designer/blogger. How did you make the decision to focus on designs, and then to offer your patterns free on your blog?

Tamara: I love new challenges, and I love being my own boss. When I tried mommy blogging, I got bored – it just wasn’t for me. When I started taking commission work, I loved getting paid for my hobby, but I didn’t love making the same things over and over again – and suddenly I had a whole bunch of bosses, with their own unique demands! When I design, I design for myself, for my kids, to my own tastes. I always love what I’m doing, and I think that that’s what comes through on the blog! I decided to make most of my patterns free, for several reasons. During the 10 years I spent crocheting as a hobby, free patterns were almost all I could afford. Additionally, I have a husband who works in the advertising field, so that model was familiar to me. By having ads on my blog, I’m able to provide free patterns, and give back to the community, while still earning a much needed income for my family – everybody wins! And that makes me happy.

 

Easter Lily

Easter Lily (November Lily).

 

UC: Do you see yourself primarily as a blogger, designer, or publisher, or do you wear all three hats equally?

Tamara: Definitely a blogger and a designer – and blogging and social media certainly take more actual hours of the day… but I’m always designing in the back of my head at the same time. I crochet in my sleep! Publishing is a side effect of running a blog I suppose, but it’s not something I think about too much. I just love putting together a great blog and fun patterns, and sharing them with others!

 

Circle of Love Afghan

Circle of Love Afghan.

 

UC: What tips or advice do you have for emerging crochet bloggers?

Tamara: Keep it positive, and be true to yourself and your own voice. Don’t worry too much about what will “sell” – share the things you love, and let that love show. Be generous with your time and talents, and find like-minded bloggers to network with. If you have a question, someone else has likely had it too!

 

Wavy Baby Blanket

Wavy Baby Blanket.

 

UC: What are your favorite crochet books in your collection?

Tamara: Hands down my favorites have to be my stitch dictionaries. I have big ones, little specialized ones, and I hope to get some Japanese ones soon! The Harmony Guides 300 Crochet Stitches Volume 6 is what taught me how to read a pattern, how to read charts, and what amazing things crochet can do! (UC comment: This is one of my favorites, too, because it is so thorough. I’m also a stitch dictionary junkie, and you can see my reviews of this book and 20+ other crochet stitch guides here.) It is sadly out of print, so I had my copy specially spiral bound to preserve it. I still use it regularly!

 

Magic Spike Mandala Square

Magic Spike Mandala Square.

 

UC: Are there any crafty websites/blogs you visit regularly for inspiration or community?

Tamara: So many! Ravelry is a great go-to of course, as well as The Yarn Box and All Free Crochet. I visit dozens of other crochet blogs every week, including Stitch 11, Repeat Crafter Me, Petals to Picots, Fiber Flux, The Crochet Lounge… and so many more!

 

Blackberry Salad Striped Baby Blanket

Blackberry Salad Striped Baby Blanket.

 

UC: What plans do you have for the rest of 2014?

Tamara: There’s so many exciting things happening this year – not all of which I can talk about yet! I’m always planning new crochet and yarn related giveaways – and I love promoting small businesses that might be interested in giveaways, including other designers, indie yarn dyers, hook makers, you name it! Also in 2014, I’m leading the Moogly Afghan Crochet-a-Long, where we crochet a different 12″ square every 2 weeks from now until November – that will give us enough for a 4′ x 6′ afghan at the end of the year, and the month of December to put it all together in time for gift giving! It’s not too late to join up, and it’s all free. (UC comment: There’s an unofficial Moogly Afghan CAL 2014 group started by fans on Ravelry, too.)

 

Thanks for stopping by for an interview, Tamara! 

Vogue Knitting Live 2014: Day 1

VKL NYNY

I was thrilled to receive a press pass again this year to attend Vogue Knitting Live.  My big plans for Friday included possibly taking a class (depending on what was still open), and meeting a fellow blogger for dinner.

Desert Sunset Infinity Cowl outside3

I left home very excited this morning.  (Ok, my smile looks a little forced, but that’s because I was waiting for MC to snap the picture.  You’ll have to take it on faith that I was stoked!)  Unfortunately, things went a little haywire at work and I didn’t get to leave early.

I made it down to VK Live just in time to meet Tien.  I’ve been reading her blog, AutumnGeisha, for the past few years and when I found out that her husband got her tickets to come to New York for VK Live, I knew it was our chance to meet up.  The Marketplace was just opening and we had the chance to make our first run through.  (It turns out that we both like to scope out the shops first, then go back to make purchases.  I think it’s how we can convince ourselves that we aren’t buying too much yarn.)

MichellesAssortmentlogo

I also wanted to introduce myself to Michelle from Michelle’s Assortment.  I’m going to be helping out at her booth on the Fifth Floor in the Marketplace Saturday from 2 p.m. until 5 p.m.  She is one of the sponsors of my 2014 Sampler Mystery Knit-a-Long.  Michelle will be providing a shawl pin as the March prize, and a set of 4 stitch markers as a fall prize.  They are even more beautiful in person than they are on her Etsy page, so the winners are in for some treats.

Tien bought a lovely Matryoshka doll shawl pin from Michelle, and then we were off to dinner at John’s Pizzeria. It was great to chat with Tien about blogging, designing, yarn, and other fun things.

You may be wondering where all the pictures are.  Confession: Tien let me leave my bag in her hotel room, and I forgot to take my camera out with me.  I promise tomorrow’s post will have some more pictures!

Curvy Girl Crochet

Until then, if you haven’t already, enter my giveaway for Curvy Girl Crochet, which ends Saturday at 11:59 p.m. Eastern!

Year of Projects, Year 2: My thoughts on continuing in YOP

You may have noticed I haven’t posted a Year of Projects update for the last two weeks.  I have been following along with my favorite YOP bloggers, but I think I’m taking a break from the Year of Projects for a while.

I say “I think” because this has been something I’ve debated about for weeks.  I’ve actually previously written posts about this and then never published them.  I love participating in the Year of Projects because it is a great crafting community, and I’ve “met” some of my favorite bloggers this way.  Last year, my YOP goal list was tied to one amazing book, and I felt really compelled to work through it as a way of learning new crochet techniques and also of sharing with the world some of the amazing things crochet can do.

This year, I tried a slightly different approach.  I set up a list of goals that included my crafty aspirations for learning new skills.  I added some projects that I wanted to be accountable for completing but where I might need some community support to help me stay on track.  In some ways, having a list that has so many different types of things on it has made it harder to choose what to work on next.  Yes, I know I can sit back and reform my list at any time but I’m not sure that is what I want to do right now.

You see, some things have changed in my life since I joined this year’s YOP.  I’ve been given some more opportunities to publish my patterns, and for the most part, I’m not able to share anything about those projects until publication.  This means that I’m working on more and more projects that I can’t share with my readers while simultaneously having less and less time for projects on my list.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about three blog posts lately:

  • this one from Crochet Concupiscence describing why she isn’t participating in the Year of Projects for 2012-2013,
  • this one by Thistlewood Farm asking bloggers to consider what they want their blog to be when it grows up (which I originally discovered through a post from Project: Stash), and
  • this one that I wrote back in back in January about my fear of becoming over-memed.

I know I don’t want my blog to be a place of obligation and crankiness, nor a place of feeling like I don’t live up to (my own) expectations about completing goals.  I have a lot of ideas about the direction I’d like my blog to take in the future, but I also have to be realistic about the amount of time I have left after accounting for my full-time and part-time jobs, attempts to have a personal life, etc.  The solution that seemed the best for me right now is to step away from participating in YOP until I have time to work on specific projects and I feel energized about posting about them!

For more YOP updates, visit Come Blog-a-long on Ravelry.

Hispanic Heritage Month 2012 Interview Series: Ana BC from Lanas & Hilos

This post is part of my 2012 Hispanic Heritage Month interview series.

Today, I’m interviewing Guatemalan crocheter Ana Contreras, the bilingual blogger behind Lanas & Hilos.  I’m a big fan of Ana’s blog and the great pictures she shares of her projects.  Ana, also known online as AnaBC on Ravelry, is also a crochet (and, occasionally, knitting) designer.    Her patterns can be found online here.  All pictures are used with Ana’s permission.

Ana BC.

Underground Crafter (UC): How did you learn to crochet?

Ana: My mom taught me how to crochet and knit when I was a teenager. I continued learning through books and magazines.  The funny thing is that now my mom calls me “teacher,” because I am sharing with her new techniques that I have been learning through my reading and internet research, which is mostly in English (and my mom is not so fluent in it).

Lately I have been crocheting more than knitting, maybe because I find it easier and faster.  But I actually love both.  Each has its own charm.

 

Ana's Circles and Stripes Blanket. (Click for blog post.)

UC: What inspired you to start designing?

Ana: I would define my inspiration in two words: easy and modern.

EASY.  I confess I don’t like “difficult” when it comes my yarn crafts.  It has to pleasurable for me…it is a hobby, not torture.  Therefore, I am always looking for ways to make things easier and likable.

MODERN.  I am always looking for modern options of classic or old-fashioned styles.  Yarn pieces don’t have to be boring.

Both goals have kept my mind in a creative mode.

 

Ana's Wave Blanket pattern. (Click for free download.)

UC: Tell us about the crochet scene in Guatemala. 

Ana: In general, here in Guatemala, crocheting and knitting are considered crafts for grandmothers and older people.  But I think things are changing.  Younger people are wanting to learn to knit or crochet, because nowadays there are more modern patterns and options in the yarn crafts.  The yarn stores are now offering classes.

The problem that we have here in my country is that there are not many yarn stores; and the variety of yarn available is very poor.  But we learn to work with what we have, and make the most of it.  Personally, when I have the chance to travel, I love to make a stop at a yarn store and buy something special.  (But, how much yarn can you bring in a suitcase?  Not much!)   (UC comment: I love visiting yarn shops when I travel, too!  You can find shop reviews from my last trip here and here, and my Visitor’s Guide to New York City Yarn Shops here.)

 

Detail from Ana's Circle in a Granny project, along with her inspiration. (Click for blog post.)

UC: Tell us about your blog. Why did you decide on blogging in English and Spanish, and what are some of the challenges associated with bilingual blogging?

Ana: I started my blog a few years ago.  I named it “Lanas & Hilos” which is Spanish for “Yarn and Thread.”  I started blogging in Spanish, my native language. But later I started to connect and follow other bloggers in the world (from England, Germany, Holland, U.S., Canada, Israel, and Greece).  Then I thought of adding an English version to connect and share with them.

I kept the Spanish version because I know many of my Latin friends don´t speak English.  But adding English opened up the world for me.

 

Ana's Plaid Granny pattern. (Click for blog post with pattern & tutorial.)

UC: You have some great photos on your blog, and your own style of watermarking them that doesn’t look tacky. Do you have any advice for aspiring bloggers, especially on photography for those who struggle with capturing those perfect pictures?

Ana: From experience, I have a few tips for new bloggers:

  1. Keep it clean and simple.
  2. Show big pictures and keep the text short.  Most people don’t have the time to read long posts.
  3. Take your photos with lots of light, but not direct light.  Later, you can always PhotoShop them.  If you don´t have a computer program, there are a few free photo editors online, such as FotoFlexer, LunaPic, and PicMonkey (this last one is the one I usually use, and I love it).   (UC comment: I use PicMonkey a lot too, and it is really fun!)
  4. Watermark your photos (with the photo editor), preferably with a fading effect in order not to spoil the picture.  Believe it or not, people “steal” photos in the internet, and the watermarks is a deterrent.
  5. Share details of the pieces you are showing that might be interesting to readers, such as the pattern you used, and where you can get it, as well as yarn type, hook number, colors, etc.

 

Ana's Baby Boy Booties project. (Click for blog post.)

UC: Do you have any favorite Spanish or English language crochet or craft blogs to share?

Ana: There are too many to even mention.  Among my favorites are the ones I have on the sidebar of my blog.

I highly recommend searching blogs beyond “your circle of friends,” because there are a lot of new and interesting blogs opening every day.  Side bars are very useful in this way.  When you visit blogs, leave a comment.  Many of them will visit your blog in turn, and that is a great way to meet new bloggers and make new friends.  (UC comment: I completely agree.  It’s actually through a German blogger, Barbara from Made in K-Town, that I discovered Ana’s blog.  Barbara hosts a great monthly link party on The Crochet Boulevard and it is a great way to find crochet bloggers from all over the world.)

 

Ana's Baby Blanket Nina knit pattern. (Click for free download.)

UC: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Ana: Probably most people think of me as a crocheter, but I love knitting as well.  Actually I have been working on a knit scarf pattern, and I will share it with all of you soon!

Thanks for stopping by, Ana, and we’re looking forward to seeing that new knitting pattern soon!

I’m  blogging daily throughout October.  Visit I Saw You Dancing for more Blogtoberfest bloggers and CurlyPops for Blogtoberfest giveaways.  Search #blogtoberfest12 on Twitter.

Thursday craft goals update – Week 36

It’s time for my weekly updates on my craft goals.  (I feel like I should have a theme song for these posts.)

Personal crafting goals

1. Work my way through Crochet Master Class: Lessons and Projects from Today’s Top Crocheters.

This weekend, I finished up my single crochet entrelac piece, and am now working on some Irish crochet roses.  I will have some pictures to share on Sunday in my Year of Projects* post.

 

2. Make something handmade for my mom and sister for the holidays (or their birthdays).

While I did some more work on the blanket for my sister, I had to put it aside because of some pending design deadlines.  I should still have time to finish it before Super Bowl Sunday.

 

5. Limit new yarn purchases, increase the ratio of natural to synthetic fibers in my stash, and continue to destash any yarn or notions that I won’t be using in the near future.

(Deep sigh of relief.)  Yesterday, the Charity Coordinator from the Big Apple Knitters’ Guild picked up 50 (mostly crochet) magazines that I will never use.  As Tony! Toni! Tone! sing, “It Feels Good” … to destash :).

YouTube Preview Image

 

6. Make and donate more charity crochet projects in 2012 than in 2011.

Kathryn at Crochet Concupiscence announced her 12 in ’12 Charity Crochet Project* on Monday, and I’m contemplating joining when I get started on my charity squares and pet blankets.

 

7. Participate (however briefly) in a Ravelry CAL.

Ok, I haven’t made any decisions here, but…

I’ve joined the 12 for myself group on Ravelry.  I realized that in 2011, I only made one thing for myself, a keyhole scarf (using my Twisted Crocodile Stitch Keyhole Scarf pattern) to match my coat.  This group isn’t technically a CAL, and is more like a support group for people like me who can’t seem to prioritize crafting for ourselves!

And, even though I will probably go insane if I make another blanket (but don’t I always say that before starting?), I am also contemplating joining Sarah London’s Wool-Eater CAL* a little late (after my design deadlines have been met and my sister’s blanket is finished).  I love the look of it, and I assume the technique is the same as what I’ve seen in Jenny King‘s Learn to Do Bavarian Crochet.  Unfortunately, making this blanket seems to conflict a bit with my desire to Surmount The Stash*, since I would want to make such a beautiful blanket in yarns and colors of my choosing, not just using “whatever stuff is in the stash.”  I do have four skeins of awesome yarn in coordinated colors that I could start with, I suppose, and then just add more yarn as the blanket grows (controlled growth of the stash?).

 

Professional crafting goals

3. Publish at least five patterns.

I started getting serious about some pending design deadlines this week.  I’m looking forward to the big reveal, probably in late 2012!

 

4. Blog at least twice a week.

It was interesting to post daily in December, but now I’m back to my normal rate of posting several days a week, as the mood strikes me!

 

* So, what are all these asterisks about? (Or, Marie gets philosophical.)

I like participating in link parties, memes, and blog-a-longs, and I enjoy being part of the online crochet and knitting community.  It’s a great way to meet new crafters, bloggers, and readers and to simulate the feel of an in-person guild meeting “show and tell.”

But… I’m feeling a bit over-memed (and, yes, I know that isn’t a real word).

I’m staying true to myself as an artisan and blogger by only joining in on activities that are already part of my overall goals, so this isn’t about an ethical dilemma.  It also isn’t about asserting my individuality (though I do love to do that!).

It’s about, er, um, I guess “scheduling” is the word that best sums it up.  After the initial excitement of finding a group of like-mined people to join with online fades, I worry about aligning my projects and goals (and posts) to other people’s schedules.

The first time I thought seriously about “burning out” on crochet was when I read Tracie Barrett’s post last summer.  2012 is guaranteed to be a challenging year for me, if “only” because I lack job security.  I worry about viewing my crafting as a chore.  I want crafting to be something I feel inspired and invigorated by, not something that creates stress.

I tend to approach deadlines with a fierce tenacity (fanatical zeal?).  I don’t want to feel compelled to finish a project on someone else’s deadline when I am juggling so many deadlines of my own at home, at work, and for my crafting business.

I think the best solution for me will be to keep blogging about my current projects and goals, and join in the various -a-longs when and if it makes sense for me to do so.  As a serial monogamist, I may find it hard to “dabble” with a group without commitment, but I think it is for the best right now.

What do you think?